Quinnen Williams D-Line 6’ 4” 297 lbs #92 Alabama
Redshirt sophomore Quinnen Williams was a 285 lbs rotational DE on Alabama’s National Championship team in 2017. Shortly after the confetti had settled on another Alabama title, head coach Nick Saban hired a new defensive line coach named Craig Kuligowski to further develop his defensive line.
Saban knew he would lose a number of great players to the NFL, and the defensive line was not immune to this process. Lost were Da’Ron Payne 6’ 2 320 lbs (1st round #13 to Washington(, Da’Shawn Hand 6’ 4” 300 lbs (4th round #114 to the Lions), and Joshua Frazier 6’ 4” 320 lbs (7th round #246 to the Steelers).
Kuligowski is one of the best defensive line coaches in the nation, having developed great players at Missouri including Aldon Smith, Shane Ray, Sheldon Richardson. Ziggy Hood and C. J. Mosley. He single-handedly transformed Missouri into the premier school for defensive linemen entering the NFL. He went to Miami in 2016 when the new coach at Missouri Barry Odom didn’t retain him. Ultimately he was pilfered from Miami by Saban to change the philosophy at the defensive line position.
It seems strange that a coach like Saban whose defensive line was so dominating in 2017 during their championship run would want to change a piece of the team that was working so well. Kuligowski was unquestionably one of the best talent developers for the defensive lines in all of football; so you Know Saban had a plan.
You can see Saban now sitting alone in his office cackling a villainous laugh as he rolls his cupped hands over each other like an evil mad scientist. What horrors was he about to unleash on the unsuspecting teams of the SEC and the nation as a whole?
That question was answered shortly after Kuligowski was hired when he met with Quinnen Williams and told him his new assignment. Williams was going to play the “zero” and “one” positions on the line. He was to replace Da’Ron Payne on the line, but Payne was 6’ 2” and 320 lbs. “At first I was like, ‘I’m light. I’m small,’” said Williams, who was a rotational player last season at 6’4”, 285 pounds. “But they told me not to worry about that and only focus on the technique. I was just really determined like, Bruh, I need to start. I worked my butt off.”
Williams worked feverishly in the weight room during the offseason turning himself into a 297 lbs nose tackle, “I’m 297 solid,” he said. Through the first eight weeks of the season Williams has graded out as the best defensive lineman in college football. His PFF grade is 95.6 which is higher than Ed Oliver’s 93.4.
“It’s like the quickest way to an object is a straight line,” said Williams, who is credited with 1.5 sacks and 9 TFLs through eight game. “So if you’re in the nose and you go straight to the quarterback, that’s the quickest way. That’s why I think a lot of coaches love a defensive tackle who can pass rush and also stop the run.”
All these clips are from 2018 after Williams moved from DE to the inside.
This play is from last Saturday when Alabama blanked LSU, and Quinnen Williams was the best player on the field. Even the announcers on the game were amazed at the domination of Williams against a top 10 opponent. Here he impressively beats a double team against LG Garrett Brunfield 6’ 4” 303 lbs and Lloyd Cushenberry 6” 4” 309 lbs. First he shows great hand usage when Brumfield tries to impede his rush by using a hand jab into the chest of Williams. Williams quickly beats him to the punch by knocking his hand away before he gets to his torso while at the same time using a right arm over swim move to beat Brumfield to the inside. He then uses that right arm to stop the assault of Cushenberry and brings his left arm over Cushenberry to get inside him. He then closes on the QB who has nowhere to go. He did all that in less than 2.5 seconds.
This is just an incredible move by Williams, one which belies his youthfulness. To put together a succession of quality moves in an instant against a double team during this play is off the charts fantastic.
Watch two things during this play. First, he never takes his eyes off the QB and almost innately dusts off the double team. He keeps his eye on his prey, meaning he also could react to a hand off or anything else the QB does because he has eyes on him. Second, just watch his feet. They are so quick, and his movements are like dance steps when he goes around the blockers. Also he is never off balance once during the play. His head is up, and he doesn’t go for the big hit. He just wraps up the QB.
This clip is from the 4th game of this year, a 39-10 trouncing of Missouri. Williams is quick off the snap beating all the other defensive linemen to his man. He is going against Case Cook, a 6’ 5” 295 lbs left guard, who is no match for him. Williams is stronger, quicker and uses better leverage, rag dolling Cook, driving him back into his own QB.
Williams is not just quick off the snap. He has a plan. He comes off super violently, getting Cook off balance, driving him back 6 yards in a mere 2 seconds. Even the help from the left tackle is fruitless. The QB Drew Lock is taken off guard. Lock thinks he can get the pass off, but the rush is so swift he ends up taking a safety on the play.
This play looks simple, but there are some intriguing aspect of this clip that deserve our attention. First, Williams is playing off the right shoulder of the left guard on a play designed to be a sweep to the right with the center pulling, leading the play. This is a reach block which is a very difficult block, but the guard is on the backside of the play so even if the guard only gets a minimal block it would be sufficient on an average DT. Of course Williams is no average player, and he easily beats the block of the left guard.
Williams then reads the situation and follows the pulling center knowing it will take him to the play. The center starts this play a good 2 yards closer to the play side, and he is snapping the ball so he has a huge head start over Williams. Problem is that Williams is so quick that he makes it to the center in 3 steps. He is in fact so fast that he has to push the center out of the way (the center is oblivious of Williams) in order to make the tackle.
The running back starts this play 7 yards off the LOS. There is no jab step to slow him. The RB takes the hand off, takes 2 steps and is tackled for a 5 yard loss. That is just insanely quick for a 297 lbs DT/NT to make a play.
On this play Williams is playing in a two-gap defense. You can see as the ball is snapped he is stacking the left guard and watching the play to see where he needs to dispose of the guard. The play is to his right. He tries to shed the blocker, but he grabs hold and doesn’t let go (which is a penalty). Williams still makes the play, but this shows that a two gap scheme would be the worst defense for Williams to play in. His greatest asset is his quickness/agility. Although he would be just fine in a two gap scheme, you reduce the ceiling of a player of Williams talents.
On this play Williams is playing as a NT directly over the center’s nose. This play shows the strength of Williams as he pushes a 6’ 4” 288 lbs center three yards into the backfield and makes a TFL. Again he shows the ability to gain great leverage on his opponent. He almost lifts him off the ground. With such great leverage he is able to take the center anywhere he wants to and then shed him easily to make a tackle.
This play is from the Texas A&M game and shows a quick swim move to beat the right guard in one of the few plays that Williams was not double teamed. This was actually an INT so Williams only got credit for a hurry instead of a sack. Quick pressure like this is paramount to the new defenses that will arise to thwart the quick throwing offenses that will be proliferating in the years to come.
Former NFL GM Phil Savage says there is a definite change to move pressure to inside the defensive line. “I would say for at least the last half-dozen years there has definitely been more of an emphasis or at least an equal amount of emphasis getting [quarterbacks] to move off their spot in the pocket and the way to do that is to get push in the middle or obviously penetration and puncture the pocket,” Savage said.
“When you see one of these defensive tackles that have pass rush ability, those guys go high,” Savage said. “They can be very disruptive.”
Saban has been slowly trying to modify his defense for a few years into a more quicker, agile model with players like Williams. The days of players like Terrence Cody a 6’ 5” 365 lbs monster in the middle are in the past at Alabama. “I think pushing the pocket in the middle and defending the middle of the field is philosophically what we try to do and when you have players that can do that, I think it’s very helpful,” said Saban.
Saban recruited Williams from Wenonah High in Birmingham Ala. when he was a 250 lbs sleek QB hunting machine. “We really liked his quickness, his athletic ability, his ability to run,” Saban explained.
Asked if he has heard all the Draft talk rumors Williams said “I pay attention, but I don’t really focus on that,” ”I definitely don’t get a big head.”
Williams is a potential game changing player who would be a linchpin to a new more destructive defense, a defense that would penetrate and disrupt plays from the inside, making plays in the backfield. Making negative plays and moving QBs off their spots to disrupt the passing game would be the hallmark of a new attacking Jets defense.
The problem is if Williams keeps making plays like this he is going to be shooting up Draft boards, and a team will use a high first round pick for him. He is making more “shock” plays than Ed Oliver right now, although we must note that Williams has a better supporting cast than Oliver.
Keep in mind that Williams is just a redshirt sophomore (Draft eligible) and the best player right now on an all-star defense. He is still just a baby in the football world. He still has not reached his potential and probably won’t for another 5 or 6 years. To think of the ceiling of a player like that is awe-inspiring.